Friday, September 21, 2012

Four Fried Chickens and A Coke

Karen: Last week we talked about a film by John Landis called An American Werewolf in London. This week, I'd like to offer up another one of Mr. Landis' works. You might have heard of it: The Blues Brothers.

This is a movie that grew on me. When I first saw it in the theater, I thought it was just OK. But with repeated viewings, somehow, I came to enjoy it more and more. The utter absurdity of it all first put me off, but once I embraced it, I loved it. And of course, there is the music: James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and great sidemen like Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn. Lots of memorable scenes and lines: "How much for the little girl?" "I hate Illinois Nazis." "Are you the police?" "No Ma'am, we're musicians." And of course, "We're on a mission from God."

I still think it is overlong and excessive (car crashes anyone?), but I'll stop and watch it any time. Oh, and I have the DVD too, which has gotten some play.


Anonymous said...

Love it. The last time I saw it, it was screened in a cinema-cum-music venue, and afterwards the band (inc. Duck Dunn, Steve Cropper, Murphy Dunne, et al, but sans Dan Ackroyd) came on and played a full set.

In terms of memorable quotes, what I find amazing is that even some of the prosaic lines are wonderfully quotable, often because they are everyday conversation, but said in the midst of utter mayhem:

You'll never get Matt and Mr. Fabulous out of them high-payin' gigs.

Got my Cheeze Whizz, boy?

One Timex digital watch, broken. One unused prophylactic. One soiled. One black suit jacket, one pair black suit pants. One hat, black. One pair of sunglasses.


Are you the police?
No, ma'am. We're musicians.
(That lady is called Mrs. Tarantino, btw).

You two are just gonna walk right out that door without your dry white toast, without your four fried chickens, and without Matt 'Guitar' Murphy!

What kind of music do you usually have here?
Oh, we got both kinds. We got country AND western.

Use of unnecessary violence in the apprehension of the Blues Brothers HAS been approved.

And we would especially like to welcome all the representatives of Illinois's law enforcement community that have chosen to join us here in the Palace Hotel Ballroom at this time...

Lots of space in this mall.

And, of course.........

It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark... and we're wearing sunglasses.
Hit it!

If you think the final version was overlong, you should see Ackroyd’s original script. You know how they get Mr. Fabulous from the restaurant, Murphy & Malone from the restaurant and but then all the rest of the band are Murph & The Magic Tones? Landis re-wrote that. In the original, Ackroyd had a separate story for every single one of the band members!

For me, I think the Blues Brothers is two films: the story of the band and the music, which I adore, and the actual plot about the money, orphanage and various people trying to kill them, which is really an excuse for insane car chases. For this reason, I thought the music in BB 2000 was virtually as good as the first time, although the film was nowhere near as good. It needed both elements: the gritty, grounded, real R&B and fantastical chase plot.


david_b said...

I've been waiting for this movie column for weeks (knew it was coming eventually..). A thoroughly enjoyable flick. Many things to say about it, but I'll stick to what comes to mind..:

1) Like Ferris Bueller, yet another homage to Chicago; and yes, my town Milwaukee is included with the expressway scene where the Nazi are careening into the air, filmed on Milwaukee's lakefront on an unfinished stretch of road (it was finally finished a few years later..).

2) Loved the original movie, not so much the current 'extended' DVD. Why..? They added some scenes back in and extended all the musical sequences, which typically I wouldn't mind (since it's excellent music like John Lee Hooker and ol' Cab), but it throws off the pace of the movie. Those scenes were cut down for a reason, to keep a sense of momentum in story-telling. It's great to have the full sequences, but would have preferred having BOTH versions on the DVD to choose from.

3) It was disheartening that Paul Shaffer wasn't allowed to be on-screen, since he did most of the background musical arranging. His SNL contract didn't allow him to participate. Luckily he's on the cover of the later 'Made In America' album.

Speaking of which, EVERYONE should have that album/CD in their collection (best quasi-live BB album ever..). It didn't sell well when it first came out (post-movie), but it.. is.. a.. Classic.

Sorry to hear some stars (like Dunn and Napier) are no longer with us.. Hooker died in 2001, and I still have a '97 blues festival poster with his face prominently shown up in my man-cave.

As for quotes, I love the beginning lines..

"Jake, these aren't the type of guys that write letters.."

"You sold the Bluesmobile for THIS..??"

"No, I sold it for a microphone."

"It's got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it's got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It's a model made before catalytic converters so it'll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile or what?"

"Fix the cigarette lighter"

Edo Bosnar said...

Overlong? Every time I've watched it - and I've watched it a lot of times - I pretty much always have this "man, I wish it wasn't over" when the movie ends. In that regard, I kind of wish it had been made with separate "extraction" stories for each band member, as Richard noted.
Even the car chases, and ensuing destruction of so many cars, fits in perfectly. They serve as very effective, over-the-top satire of pretty much every movie car chase ever filmed.
Needless to say, it's one of my all-time favorite movies, a perfect blend of satire, absurdity and great music (yes, the soundtrack is as good as the movie itself).
And since everyone's citing their favorite lines, here's one of my own personal favorites:

Lemnoc said...

I don't know why they ever filmed another police chase scene after this movie. It pretty much took a bazooka to the entire tired cliché.

Inkstained Wretch said...

It's a strange kind of a shaggy-dog of a movie. Fun though.

It reminds me of the classic comedies of the 1930s and 40s with the Marx Brothers or Abbott & Costello in terms of its structure which is absurd and telegraphs that fact to the audience. Note how they don't even try to hide the fact that it isn't Belushi doing the flips during the gospel scene.

What's interesting to me is that they were reviving an old-time musical tradition ... that had been vital just a decade before the film was made. Imagine somebody doing that about late-90s music today...

I met guitarist Steve Cropper a few years ago. (He was in Washington to testify on intellectual property rights.) He swore up and down that Belushi was a vocalist in a class with the greats that he had worked with like Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, & Otis Redding. No joke...

Graham said...

The Blues Brothers hold a special spot for me. Since I heard them do "Soul Man" on SNL, I've been a blues fan. Their music led me to trace their sources, so I discovered a lot of fantastic music in the process...still discovering it, in fact.

Mr. Fabulous passed away about a year ago. Matt "Guitar" Murphy suffered a stroke about ten years ago, but has bounced back in the past couple of years and is playing again.

Far as the movie goes, it was fun and had some great lines, but was a bit long and excessive, but it was the 80's, man!!!

William Preston said...

I didn't like it when it came out; later, I could look back affectionately on certain scenes. (Going to school at Northwestern, I knew just what they meant about "Illinois Nazis.") At the time, however, it just felt baggy and amateurish, and the SNL routine of two white guys who aren't that good doing numbers that should have been performed by superior performers both black and white had already begun to grate. The film didn't help.

J.A. Morris said...

Thanks for posting this Karen, it's a funny coincidence that you'd post about 'The Blues Brothers' this weekend.

5 years ago today, my wife & I got married. We struggled to find "recessional" music. We finally settled on 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love' from this movie!
It's one of our favorite comedy movies. And we thought it was cool that John Belushi "sang" at our wedding.

Karen said...

J.A., that must have been some reception!

Graham said...

I always thought that the Blues Brothers kind of started out as a hoot for Belushi and Ackroyd...just giving them the chance to play the music that they loved with a crack band. I think it sort of snowballed on them, obviously, but I really think they were promoting the music. They always acknowledged their sources, even on the movie. I don't think their intent was to replace the music, but maybe to get others to maybe see for themselves where it originated and how great it was. It really worked because they were responsible for a lot of folks (me included) jumping on the blues bandwagon. There wasn't a lot of music like they were playing that was on the radio at the time, so it got some attention.

If anybody's interested, sorry I've rambled on about it for this long, I posted a comment related to this on my blog (at least the first half of the post) a couple of years ago at

Sorry for the blathering.

Karen said...

Graham, I think you make a great point. I know I had never been interested in blues until I heard it via the Blues Brothers. Then I started seeking out the originals (God Bless those Chess collections!).

Tony said...

I never get tired of watching this movie. My mom and grandmother took me to see this when it first came out. I was 12 I think, and while my mom was laughing, she wasn't crazy about the 'saltier' language her 12 year old was hearing. Like "It looks like you're up s**t creek." It's interesting to watch now, because many of the locations are no longer around, or have been re-purposed.

Tony said...

"Are you the police?
No, ma'am. We're musicians.
(That lady is called Mrs. Tarantino, btw)"

I like the fact Dan Ackroyd called her "Mrs. Toronto" in the movie, I'm from Toronto in case you haven't guessed.

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